Minority Whip Steny Hoyer introduced legislation Thursday to reinstate the limited voting rights of House delegates, who had those powers stripped by Republicans a day earlier.

The Maryland Democrat said the "unacceptable" change will leave millions of U.S. citizens without a voice in Congress.

"It is absolutely unacceptable to deny nearly 5 million Americans a voice in Congress,” Hoyer said in a statement. “Republicans continually declare they are focused on listening to the American people. With this rules change, they are ignoring the voices of 5 million American citizens."

The Republicans' rules package, which passed Wednesday on a party-line vote, prevents the six House delegates from presiding over, or voting as part of, the Committee of the Whole — a reference to a House procedure that fast-tracks legislation by effectively turning the entire chamber into a committee.

Under the Democratic majority, the six delegates — representing the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands — were granted a vote on the Committee of the Whole. The Republican rules proposal eliminated that privilege.

Five of the delegates are Democrats, while the sixth is an Independent.

The delegates have slammed the change, arguing that it strips their constituents — technically U.S. citizens — of their only mouthpiece on Capitol Hill.
 
“Our constituents are part of the American family," Eni Faleomavaega (D), delegate of American Samoa, said in a statement. "They fight and die in disproportionate numbers in defense of our nation. The Republican rules package — by depriving us of our symbolic vote — dishonors their service and demeans their sacrifice."

Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico) noted that his nearly 4 million constituents number more than any other single district in the House.

"By depriving my colleagues and me of our limited vote," he said, "the Republican package sends a clear message to our constituents: 'You don’t deserve to be heard. You don’t count. And you don’t matter.' "